Working for a company with a large presence in Canada affords me some spirited political conversations with many of my co-workers who reside north of the border.  They really do have a sense for how difficult politics is for us in the U.S., mostly because they have their own cadre of idiots running the show up in the Great White North.  I often find that their understanding of our politics, or even who we are as a people is greatly skewed by those who wish to portray us as buffoons and gluttons to the rest of the world, namely our Press and theirs.  You know, those high and mighty, neatly coiffed Kens and Barbies from New York and L.A. who know just exactly what evil lurks in the hearts and minds of the average farm family from Nebraska.  Invariably, the topic usually turns to my Canadian friends’ amusement at our hatred for taxes and our lack of compassion for our fellow man, as witnessed by the fight against socialized medicine.  However, the conversation tends to be a little different when the typical Canadian speaks about their own experiences well out of earshot of their fellow countrymen.  Politeness is in their genes you see.

Dripping with compassion…

Of course, many of my northern friends will tell you how amazing it is that they don’t have to pay for their socialized health care, how unfair it is here south of the border that people cannot afford basic health care.  It doesn’t speak well about who we are as a people you know, eh?  Odd that they see our insistence on self-reliance and the desire to get our elected officials to curb their spending habits, as we must with our home budgets, as cold and calloused.  Of course, they were promised something for free which is rationed and seems almost universally unavailable when needed.  But that’s compassionate and of course, it’s impolite to point out otherwise.

One friend recounts how her father went into the hospital on a Saturday, only to be moved into isolation on Sunday due to a lung infection.  As of 5 days later, his bed sheets remained unchanged.  It wasn’t until the janitor complained to staff that he finally received fresh linen.  His procedure was scheduled for Wednesday, requiring him to eat his morning meal early, before 9:00 a.m.  Unfortunately, the nurse did not arrive at the hospital until past 9:00-ish and the gentleman missed his meal.  In fact, he went the whole day without being fed until after a series of complaints yielded plain toast well after supper, his only meal of the day.  The family notes that the only visitor to his room the whole day was the same janitor.  How compassionate.  At least his care was free.

I spent this weekend with our horrible health care industry, as I took my daughter into the emergency room well past midnight Saturday.  By 1:30 am, she had been seen by three nurses, was given an IV for dehydration, had blood work taken and was resting as comfortable as possible in her bed, eyes fluttering with heaviness of sleep.  Every 15 minutes or so, the nurse would come in to check on her fluid levels and general level of comfort.  Once the blood work came back, it was determined that the CAT scan scheduled for the early morning would not be needed, having some virus that was causing her to present her symptoms.  Rest at home, fluids, armed with an anti-nausea medication was the prescription and by 5:50 am we were headed home.  And yes, I gave them my insurance card and will pay the co-pay for the emergency room.

Not once did I have to insist on care.  Not once was any procedure ruled out due to cost or availability and I never doubted the compassion of the E.R. doctor who held her hand as she explained to my frightened 14 year-old how the I.V. would hurt (a little).

As this Monday morning’s work schedule started to unfold, I got a call from one of my co-workers north of the border.  She too had spent the weekend with a friend in an emergency room in the U.S., a sight-seeing trip that took an unwanted diversion.  She remarked to me how well her friend was taken care of and she marveled at the poster on the wall in the triage room that explained that it is against the law to deny anyone treatment based on their inability to pay.  The same placard I had stared at lazily Saturday morning from 1:00 a.m. until we left.

I find nothing compassionate about charging people for something promoted as free, for which they must beg only to be delayed by scarcity or economic considerations, if the procedure is available at all.  Yes health care in the U.S. is quite expensive, and the insurance was quite onerous when I was unemployed.  But the relationship between me and my providers is not separated by some faceless yahoo intent on using my tax money and the plight of unfortunate people around the country as a bargaining chip to get re-elected.  True, there are some guidelines decided by some other faceless yahoos at Big Insurance Incorporated that come into play.  But not at point of delivery.

But none of that mattered to the nurse who saw my daughter shiver at 2:00 a.m. due to the cold IV dripping into her system, only to return 3 minutes later to wrap her with a blanket she had warmed in the dryer.  She would replace it three more times before the morning was through.

Yup, us Americans, we’re heartless bastards fer sure, eh?